A somber moment of silence marked the end of the two-week search for survivors of a Florida condominium collapse, as rescue workers stood at solemn attention and clergy members hugged a line of local officials while many of them sobbed.
The painstaking search for survivors shifted to a recovery effort at midnight Wednesday after authorities said they had come to the agonizing conclusion that there was “no chance of life” in the rubble of the Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside.
“We have all asked God for a miracle, so the decision to transition from rescue to recovery is an extremely difficult one,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a news conference.
The death toll stood at 54 late Wednesday. Officials said 86 people were unaccounted for, although detectives were still working to verify that each of those listed as missing was actually in the building when it collapsed.
Rescuers had spent two weeks digging through the rubble, searching in vain for any sign of life, Levine Cava said.
Below are some photos showing the scene over the past two weeks, all from Getty Images.
“They’ve used every possible strategy, and every possible technology available to them to find people in the rubble,” Levine Cava said. “They’ve removed over 7 million pounds of concrete and debris from the mound. They’ve used sonar, cameras, dogs, heavy machinery. They’ve searched for void spaces and they’ve searched for victims. They ran into a building they were told could collapse, and they braved fire, smoke, torrential rain, and strong winds in the hopes of finding people alive.”
Hours before the formal transition from rescue to recovery mission, those emergency workers joined local officials, rabbis and chaplains in a moment of silence.
An accordion player unseen on a nearby tennis court played Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” which was followed by a piccolo playing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Firefighters from Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, the federal government and elsewhere were also present.
On a tall nearby fence, families and well-wishers had posted photos of the victims, supportive messages and flowers. Firefighters hung a banner atop the fence that read “Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Mourns With You.”
Officials vowed to continue the recovery efforts until they find the remains of every one of the missing.